B&I Lions labour to victory over NZ BaaBaas
LIONS TOUR REPORT: The British and Irish were made to work hard for their 13-7 win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians at Toll Stadium in Whangarei.
What a shock this must have been to Sam Warburton's B&I Lions. Thought to be the easiest match of their tour of New Zealand, against a pick-up team of non-Super Rugby players, the Provincial Barbarians were within winning distance when the final whistle went, confounding all the pundits who thought they were in for a hiding.
Maybe the Lions had jet lag and maybe they were rusty but they are going to have to shake off both diseases in a hurry as they are due to meet their first Super Rugby opponents on Wednesday, the Blues at Eden Park.
To be fair the Lions had opportunities to score which they did not take, including four five-metre scrums. They were three times held up over the line, missed two penalty kicks at goal and three times opted for scrums when a penalty presented an easy opportunity.
That said, the Barbarians are the ones to emerge with credit - their courage and determination, their handling and daring, their refusal to be overawed, even though every one of their opponents was an international star.
It was a fascinating match and it was the Barbarians who made it so.
The northern part of North Island had had long and heavy rains but they kept away for the match and the ground gave as little evidence of the rain as the Barbarians gave of Lions' reputations.
After men in Maori dress welcomed the teams onto the field and issued a challenge to each of them, Angus Gardner of Australia blew the whistle to start the tour and Bryn Gatland, son of the Lions' coach, kicked off to set it in motion. The Barbarians' wing Sevu Reece grabbed the neglected kick-off and the Barbarians started attacking. They attacked again when a long pass Reached Sam Vaka on the right wing.
In the match the Barbarians were not afraid to use long passes, while the Lions did not pass as often. Their two strong centres preferred running with the ball to passing it.
The Barbarians had a chance to score first but twice preferred to go for line-outs when a kick at goal seemed an easy option. But the Lions contained them, won a turnover and cleared.
When Dwayne Sweeney was penalised for being offside, Jonny Sexton aimed at goal, to the loud annoyance of many in the capacity 19 951 crowd. Sexton missed but when Inga Finau was offside he goaled amidst booing and after 16 minutes the Lions led 3-0.
That was the first score by the 2017 Lions on their tour.
The Barbarians had a golden chance to score when Luteru Laulala went on a long run down the left. With team-mates on either side of him he tried - and failed - to beat fullback Stuart Hogg. Tackled, Laulala got the bell to Finau but Taulupe Faletau caught him from behind and turned him onto his hack as they slid over the line.
Finau injured a shoulder in the tackle and was replaced by Jonah Lowe.
From the five-metre scrum the Barbarians bashed at the Lions' line till they knocked on and the Lions cleared to a line-out just inside their 22. Thew Barbarians won the ball and Gatland kicked an up-and-under and the Barbarians were bashing at the goal-line again till burly hooker, captain Sam Anderson-Heather forced his way over for a try. Gatland converted and the Barbarians led 7-3. It took the Lions 30 playing minutes to get back the lead back.
That was the first try against the 2017 Lions and the first conversion.
A diagonal kick to the right was grabbed by Sam Vaka. Handling let the Barbarians down and the Lions flykicked out of trouble.
From a turnover the visitors attacked but Hogg's pass to Anthony Watson ended in touch. They attacked some more and Ross Moriarty, who carried well all match, broke and Hogg actually got over the line, but was held up. From the ensuing scrum Watson and Greig Laidlaw were close. When the Barbarians were offside, the Lions opted for another five-metre scrum, and this time Jonathan Joseph was held up.
And so half-time broke with the Barbarians leading 7-3. And all the world wondered.
Two minutes into the second half Laidlaw goaled a simple penalty. 7-6.
The Lions started making changes, the first was Owen Farrell for Sexton and he seemed to bring calm and direction to the game.
They also changed the whole front row. It may have been this or coincidence but it changed the outcome of scrums remarkably. In the first half there were 13 scrums, all of which started and ended without interruption and five of those were five-metre scrums. In the second half the Barbarians put the ball into six scrums, one of which had a natural beginning and end. The others produced four resets, a collapse, a penalty and a free kick.
When Gatland failed to kick the ball into touch, the Lions counterattacked with speed, Moriarty again effecting a breach. Out the ball went to Watson whose footwork gaze him a try in the right corner. Farrell converted. 13-7 after 53 minutes, which was the final score.
The highlights of those last 17 minutes some bustling running by Ben Te'o, an attack by the Barbarians from a scrum ended when Joe Webber was tackled into touch near the cornerpost, a Farrell penalty attempt hit the upright and stayed out, Rhys Webb close when the Lions countered and Farrell kicked high, the Barbarians advancing in phases, and two penalties that produced Barbarian line-outs and mauls.
Man of the Match: Bryn Gatland of the Barbarians had some brilliant moments during his curtailed match. Of the Lions two Welshmen stood out Alun Wyn Jones and our Man of the Match Ross Moriarty.
Moment of the Match; The Barbarians' try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody
For New Zealand Provincial Barbarians:
For British & Irish Lions:
Pens: Sexton, Laidlaw
New Zealand Provincial Barbarians: 15 Luteru Laulala (Counties Manukau), 14 Sam Vaka (Counties Manukau), 13 Inga Finau (Canterbury, 12 Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato), 11 Sevu Reece (Waikato), 10 Bryn Gatland (North Harbour), 9 Jack Stratton (Canterbury, 8 Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury, 7 Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), 6 James Tucker (Waikato), 5 Keepa Mewett (Bay of Plenty), 4 Josh Goodhue (Northland), 3 Oliver Jager (Canterbury, 2 Sam Anderson-Heather (Otago) (captain), 1 Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty).
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio (Tasman), 17 Tolu Fahamokioa (Wellington), 18 Marcel Renata (Auckland), 19 Matt Matich (Northland), 20 Peter Rowe (Wanganui), 21 Richard Judd (Bay of Plenty), 22 Jonah Lowe (Hawke's Bay), 23 Joe Webber (Waikato).
British & Irish Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rory Best, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 George Kruis, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Elliot Daly.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)